“The Power of Unseen Hands

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – February 5, 2017

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 112:1-10, Matthew 5:13-20


    This morning we are going to eavesdrop during a time when Jesus was teaching the masses a very powerful message.  He began telling his listeners that they were like salt and also like light for the entire world.  Both images were used to teach men and women about what each of them had the potential to become. 

    After that, he told them what would happen if they chose not to develop their potential.  They would loose their saltiness and what light they had would be covered up. Such words could have easily confused his listeners who were not used to hearing such images from their priests.

    When we are children and someone tells us that we have great potential, we have no idea what they are talking about.  Our raw potential means nothing to us.  We do not know who we are.  We do not know what to do.  Nothing even resembling potential appears in our lives until we become productive or we begin to use our imaginations.         

    What happens to us is that we begin responding and adjusting to the circumstances of growing up in our culture.  Our environment and the people that surround us begin to fashion and shape us in ways that make us a better fit for our society.  Unexpected events, however, can redirect our lives.

    Once, mother attempted to save her son's life from being murdered by sending him down a river in a wicker basket.  She could not have known that he would become part of the royal family of Egypt.  Further, she could not have imagined that he would eventually become a savior of Israel by leading his people's exodus from Egypt nor that he would become known as a great Law Giver of the Jewish nation.  

    Moses' life was molded by his circumstances that gave him opportunities to develop his character and abilities in ways that would not have happened had he stayed with his parents. We might say that unseen hands were at work behind the scenes to create a savior that would be needed later in the history of his people.

    Once there was a simple, uneducated peasant woman that came from a family whose name and relevance has not been remembered by history.  She got pregnant and was not married.  She could not have known that her infant son would become a great teacher whose message of love would help to transform everything from the attitudes of people to the way governments would be structured in the future.  As it turned out, Mary is the only name that we have for Jesus' mother. 

    In our lesson, Jesus was encouraging his listeners to think big, to stretch their imaginations and spirit instead of following in the path established by their parents and grandparents.  Social traditions and customs often encourage people to respond this way generation after generation causing the population to exist in a wasteland where some cultures remain the same for hundreds of years.

    As he continued teaching, Jesus taught what must have blown their minds.  He said that no one could enter The Kingdom of Heaven unless their faithfulness exceeded that of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.  (Matthew  5:20)  

    These two categories of people were well-known by everyone that was listening to Jesus.  This social caste was filled with living examples of perfection by men that were willing to give up everything in order to commit their lives to conforming to the obedience that God required under the Law.  How could anyone live more perfectly than the Pharisees?

    Jesus saw through the masks of perfection that the Pharisees were wearing.  He knew that they were not living authentic lives.  Their god had become a discipline, and their need was to please God by their obedience.  Matters of the heart like compassion, forgiveness and accepting others without judgment were ignored.  Most Pharisees had never done anything that they wanted to do if that activity was not encouraged by obedience to the Law. 

    How many of us have been exposed to Christians who wore Jesus on their sleeves, who never missed a chance to tell us that they were born again?   They knew critical Bible verses and told us that unless we believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that we could not be saved.  They had the plan for salvation memorized and were always attempting to save our souls.  They desperately wanted us to conform to their beliefs. 

    Maybe we have attended a memorial service of a dear friend where the pastor took advantage of a captive audience to preach a message of salvation to those who may still be lost. Often some pastors are more interested in heathen hunting than celebrating the life of the deceased.

    Today, Jesus would be preaching the same thing but using different terms.  He would teach, "Unless your faithfulness exceeds that of Born Again Christians you will not enter the Kingdom of God." 

    Jesus was teaching a revolutionary idea.  He was announcing that following the desires of a loving heart was much greater than living the dictates of the Law. Conforming to a specific code of behavior and attitudes to please God leaves little room for unseen hands that help us to reach our potential.

    Remember, there was a day historically when the Church defined what a person was to believe in order to be saved even when the teachings made no sense to Christians. The Church and families chose their marriage partners.  Often the wedding day was the first time the two met each other.  To choose to become romantically involved with someone other than the one that was chosen, was considered adultery that was punishable by death.  This was the authority of the Church directing our lives.

    Today, people can be members of the spiritual elite and be totally committed to pleasing God because that is what others have persuaded them to do.  Actually, God is not interested in being pleased.  (Acts 17:25)  This sounds like heresy, but think about what Jesus was teaching.  (Matthew 7:11)  We are the ones who are blind and have amnesia.  God does many things to please us but we cannot see it.

    What Jesus was preaching set people free from being like others who were blindly following their disciplined lives.  Jesus was setting aside the "Thou Shalts" that were associated with living and salvation.  Loving hearts never need laws to define how they are to live, what attitudes to keep and which to outgrow, or what relationship to foster and which to discard. 

    Compassionate spirits know how to be angels and their identity has nothing to do with a need to please God. They understand their identities as people that are representing God in their life's circumstances. This is where unseen hands create opportunities for us to be a light set on a hill. This is where unseen hands inspire us to stand forth with an idea whose time has come, resulting in entire societies being transformed.   

    What is the source of these unseen hands?  The answer to this question is what was supporting Jesus' message that afternoon.  Is God micromanaging our lives?  Does God have favorites among us that are divinely appointed for certain tasks?  Jesus was telling his audience that the unseen hands are within them and they require no specific beliefs to work on their behalf.

    Today, by following the desires of our loving energy, we may feel called to practice law and medicine.  We may choose to become a teacher or a dock worker.  We may choose to use our active imaginations to develop new architectural designs, new computer applications, new compounds that are almost indestructible, new ways to miniaturize energy-producing technology and new safe but effective pharmaceutical products.  Jesus was teaching that the sky is the limit for what his listeners could do with their potential. 

    We were created with these unseen hands already baked into our physical forms to inspire us to seek for the next big thing that will benefit humanity.  These unseen hands cause us to express qualities that propel us into the future eager to find solutions to age-old problems. 

    Jesus wanted his followers to know that God was within each of them. If we mature with loving energy as our guide, God will become visible in our world through billions of different human forms who have different ways of expressing their potential.  

    Some people believe that God will open doors for them, that God will bring someone into their lives to be their husband or wife, that God will provide an umbrella of safety to protect them from harm and that God will guide their lives so that they stay on the path of doing God's will.

    Even though some people's faith is built on such trust, why would God do this?  (Matthew 26:39)  Wise parents would never think of doing their children's classroom homework for them.  We are here to evolve, not to have our lives determined for us.

    What Jesus was teaching was radically different from anything his listening audiences had ever heard.  He taught, "You are like salt.  You are like a light set on a hill.  You go into the world and make disciples.  Let your light shine before others. The Kingdom of God is like finding a treasure hidden in the field.  You sell everything that you have and go to buy that field."  (Matthew 13:44)  

    Jesus was not teaching his listeners to look to some external God to guide them to what they need and want. He was teaching his listeners that they already have everything that they need inside of them to make choices that express God's creative nature.  (Matthew 17:23)

    Yes, we are very flawed individuals. However, when we find ourselves doing things, as humble and unnoticed as many of our deeds and words may be, we are living the potential that was always a part of our physical and spiritual design. 

    God takes what we are and over time will build a new world filled with fresh ideas from people equipped with spiritual technology that is filled with compassionate, loving energy. This is the hope for our future on which we can depend.



Merciful and loving God, the more we become enthusiastic for life's varied experiences, the more positive influence we will have on those around us. You want us to enjoy your gift of life, yet from our experiences, we have discovered that frustrations, disappointments and moments of discouragement also come with the territory of living. Teach us to learn from such experiences that more healing is needed within us when often we think it first needs to come from others. Your guidance for our growth comes in many forms that often hold the recipe for our growth within them. Amen.



Eternal God, thank you, for the oasis of peace that is made possible each time we choose to enter our church.  As we are seated in our house of worship, it seems as though we constantly need to be reminded of who we are.  It is comforting to remember we are your children, when the problems on our island and those around the world seem to communicate something different.  It is comforting to sense your presence when we fear our beliefs and faith are not strong enough to erase the uncertainties we have about where life is taking us.

Give us guidance, O God, to carry our energy with peace, to shoulder our perceived burdens with confidence and to enter moments of uncertainty with unwavering trust.  Thank you for your support when we enter fragile moments.  Correct our thinking when we believe that it is our right to hold on to painful memories and hurt feelings.   Help us to let go of all thoughts and feelings that cannot possibly serve our growth. 

As we move into our tomorrows, enable us to keep our minds focused on the idea that this is your world and how grateful we are to be able to live in it as representatives of your spirit.  Inspire us to forget labels, judgments and differences.  We ask your blessing on all the efforts being made to keep people safe from those that want to hurt others because they are different.  Somehow, the world’s people need to learn that we are all citizens of one world and loved equally by you. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . .